AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - July 1999

Breed News and Views

One for the record - On Feb. 14, 1998, a litter of 14 male Bernese Mountain Dogs was born in Ladysmith, British Columbia. The breeders of this remarkable all-male litter are Coral and David Denis. Its uniqueness has been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records, where it becomes the first-ever entry of a Bernese Mountain Dog in this book.

In the limelight. The striking tricolor markings of Berners help make them highly photogenic, as is testified to by their frequent presence in the full gamut of advertising media. Seeing a Bernese in unexpected places is becoming more and more commonplace. The breed even appeared in the syndicated comic strip "Robotman"!

When Ch. Mentmore's Windy Meadow captured first in the Working Group at Westminster this year, television viewers across the country focused their attention on the Berner owned by Caroline Woods and bred by Diane Bussey and Dawn Hitchcock. As part of the television coverage surrounding the Super Bowl of canine shows, BMDCA member Michele Ostermiller appeared with Ch. De-Li's Coming Attraction on NBC's "Today" show. On ABC, host Charles Gibson was joined by his own Bernese on "Good Morning America."

Over the years, Bernese have appeared in unusual places. A particular favorite of mine was the December 1993 issue of Food and Wine magazine where Julia Child described a Christmas feast for friends in her New England home. The guests included a couple and their Bernese Mountain Dog, Abigail who was mentioned in the text and pictured with her masters. Imagine the gourmet table scraps that lucky Berner got to savor!

Eagle eyes. The visual acuity of the Bernese is noteworthy, and I've heard many stories relating this. Here's one: After an encounter with a 5-foot black snake that ended safely for all involved, including the snake, the Berner that had sounded the alert was as watchful as a human over anything in her path that had the shape of a snake, such as a garden hoe or fallen branch. Her first reaction was always visual and would be followed by a scent inspection.

Another Berner looks at the water bucket before drinking. If it is frozen or has particles of ice in it, she will not drink. Pouring off most of the offending pieces does not fool her. She looks and waits until it has been replenished with fresh water. Experimentation reveals that it is not the coldness that bothers her, it is the ice that she detects visually.

I witnessed a demonstration of keen Berner eyesight at one indoor show. My sister and I arrived very early to let our English Toy Spaniel gain a sense of security before going into the ring. When my sister disappeared with the spaniel, I explored the concessions area with a Berner in tow. Later I felt an eager tug on the leash and the slap of a wagging tail that I thought signaled the return of my sister. With no one familiar in sight, I looked in the direction the dog was intently watching. Across the cavernous room was a woman walking an English Toy Spaniel with the same markings as ours. Spurred by curiosity, I took the Berner to her point of interest. On getting closer, the Berner realized her mistake (whether by sight or scent) and changed her demeanor.

The most fascinating demonstration to me of our breed's ability in visual recognition is the reaction to stuffed toys representing Berners. Our dogs greet these with the nose touching and posterior sniffing typical of an encounter with a real dog! Other owners report similar responses of their dogs to such toys.

Please write if you have any unusual stories about eagle-eyed Berners.

- Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875,- breed Web site: www.akc.org